OK – so they won’t grow in the deep shade. But I can’t think of many other places where a clematis flower won’t grow and make the garden a lovelier place. They grow in sun, and they grow in shade.
They can act as a ground cover, tumbling down walls and slopes, grow up a trellis or decorate the mailbox, or twine through non-flowering shrubs to make them look as though they’ve suddenly burst into bloom. And if you’ve ever seen a vigorous clematis growing up and spilling out of a tall tree – now that is a sight to remember!
For confirmed plantaholics, clematis is a godsend.
Tips how to grow clematis
Even in the most crowded garden, you can always find a place to tuck “Just one more” – because it will simply twine its delicate tendrils around whatever is close and send up a beautiful flowering display.
I have two growing through a climbing ‘New Dawn‘ rose on an arbor – the beautiful double white ‘Duchess of Edinburgh‘ – which also has spectacular seedpods like winged silk – and Clematis viticellata ‘Etoile Violette‘ whose violet-purple flowers lend panache to the pale pink of the roses and cover the top of the arbor in blossoms. In fact, while the big show for the roses in June, the arbor is a mass of flowers from June through September. And I’m growing three plants the space of one.
Many people shy away from clematis because they get confused about how and when to prune them. But it really isn’t as much of a mystery as you might think. You prune your spring shrubs after they flower, don’t you? This is also the time to prune your small-flowered spring-blooming clematis – after the show is over.
Many clematises bloom in late Spring and again in Fall, like Multi Blue, Will Goodwin, Nelly Moser, Miss Bateman, and H.F. Young. For these, just remove the deadwood in spring and prune to a healthy bud three or four feet above the ground. Remove the spent flowers from the first flush of blooms so that you’ll get a better second show. Leave the second ones if you want to enjoy the lovely seed heads.
Do you know what is the best time of year to plant a clematis? Large-flowered late-flowering clematis such as the Jackmanii, Ernest Markham, and Etoile Violette need to be pruned hard – to a healthy pair of buds about 12″ above the ground – in late winter. These are very fast growers that will try to take over without this cutting back – and will also get leggy and bare on the bottom.
What you may have noticed about the bloom times here is that you can have clematis in flower in your garden from May through September. So you can use them to create the illusion of blooming things all over the yard and never suffer from that “tired” season when not much is happening in the garden. Removing spent flowers encourages more bloom – but pick them when they still look lovely because they also make terrific cut flowers.
Most of the pale-colored clematis such as Nelly Moser or Will Goodwin will do well in some shade. In fact, all clematis want to be planted with their feet in the shade, which is why they grow so well under and through trees and shrubs – their feet are cool and their heads rise up seeking the sunshine. But the deeper colors, such as the gorgeous and heavily blooming Niobe or Multi-Blue, as well as whites like Arctic Queen (reputed to be the best double white ever created!) stand up to and show off better in bright light.